(ACHA August 20, 2011)


The ministerial level Bangladesh-India Joint Rivers Commission is to meet in Dhaka on September 5 a day ahead of Indian Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh’s trip to accord ‘political nod’ for signing agreements for sharing the waters of two rivers.


The ministerial level Bangladesh-India Joint Rivers Commission is now set to meet in Dhaka on September 5 a day ahead of Indian Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh’s trip to the Bangladesh capital to accord ‘political nod’ for signing two separate agreements for sharing the waters of Teesta and Feni rivers.


A JRC official said in Dhaka yesterday, it will be the 38th meeting of the commission that deals with sharing of 54 common rivers that flow through Bangladesh and India.


Water resources minister Ramesh Chandra Sen and his Indian counterpart Pawan Kumar Bansal will lead their sides at the meeting.


To attend the meeting, Bansal arrives in Dhaka on September 4 on a four-day visit on an invitation from Sen, officials said.


Both the sides are pinning high hopes that the two countries would be able to sign the water sharing agreements during Singh’s visit.


The Teesta sharing defied a solution for over six decades. ‘Yes, we expect the agreements on Teesta and Feni,’ officials said. At a secretary-level meeting in January in Dhaka, the two countries agreed on the frameworks of 15-year treaties for sharing the waters of Teesta and Feni rivers in dry season.


“We have agreed on the frameworks. But we still need to do the fine-tuning,’’ said Indian water resources secretary Dhruv Vijai Singh.


Though the issues of water sharing had been virtually settled, some differences remain on the percentage of water each country would get, said a JRC official.


Bangladesh wants each side to get 50% of the Teesta water, but India wants 55% of it for itself, leaving 45% for Bangladesh, the official said.


“We are already getting 3,500 cusecs per day without asking for it and we certainly expect to get more than that at the coming talks,” Sen said after the 37th meeting of the JRC held in Delhi in March last year.


Water experts said that the Teesta water is ‘very crucial’ for Bangladesh, especially during the driest period from December to March. Sometimes in December and January, the water flow comes down to less than 1,000 cusecs from 5,000 cusecs.


The Teesta sharing issue remained on the negotiation table between two sides, awaiting a solution, for over six decades.


International Farakka Committee chairman Atiqur RK Eusufzai, a leading water activist, favours setting aside at least 25% of the water for the river itself and splitting the rest — 60% for Bangladesh and 40% for India.


At the 38th JRC meeting, the two sides are also expected to discuss the issues of sharing the waters of the common river of Manu, Muhuri, Khowai, Gumti, Dharala and Dudhkumar.


In 1996, Bangladesh signed a 30-year treaty with India for sharing the Ganges waters, but without the guarantee clause to protect the share of lower riparian Bangladesh. Fresh uncertainty on Ganges sharing would arise for Bangladesh after 2026 when the 30-year Ganges sharing treaty expires.


Bangladesh and India established the JRC in 1972 to resolve water disputes over sharing the common rivers.


Though the JRC is required to meet once every six months to sort out problems, it frequently failed to do so.


The 36th JRC meeting took place in Dhaka in 2005, but its 37th meeting took place in March 2010, after a break of five years, in New Delhi.

Top - Home